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Matt McSpirit on Virtualisation, Management and Core Infrastructure

Open XML: I SO need your support ;-)

Open XML: I SO need your support ;-)

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Interoperability, Choice and Open XML.  Over the past year, Microsoft has done a hell of a lot to try and ensure that our products inter-operate with other products, not necessarily produced by Microsoft, out of the box, without the need for the user to call on an advanced team of consultants to make sure the products 'talk' to each other and work together as the user would like.

We've opened up our products a great deal more, ensuring that developers of other products can ensure their products work seamlessly with ours.  The logical next step of this opening up of our products, ensuring interoperability, is to impose standards, that all can subsequently follow.  There is however, in one particular case, a debate  raging around document formats and standards, namely Open Document Format (ODF), and Open XML.

Users today are demanding interoperability and choice.  Software vendors wanted to create high-value applications that integrate with our software.  What have we done to meet these needs?  Well, for a start, Microsoft has long believed in the power of XML-based file formats to unlock data in documents and to help integrate front and back office processes, and throughout the releases of Office, we have been implementing XML-based formats more and more and with Office 2007, you have more XML than you can shake a stick at, with all the documents from Word, PowerPoint, and Excel all being XML-based.  But what about those users on Office 2003 or earlier?  Well, how does the free add-in download from the website sound?

XML really does ooze compatibility and interoperability.  Documents can be archived, restructured, aggregated and re-used in new and dynamic ways. We believe that Open XML can help spark an explosion of innovation and investment, which will bring great benefits for customers in the years to come.

Open XML already is an open standard, and has been approved by Ecma, a highly respected standardisation body that has developed hundreds of international technology standards over the past 46 years.  The technical committee that was formed for the approval was comprised of a number of large technical companies, such as Apple, Intel, Toshiba and more, along with government institutions and sophisticated “power users” of information technology, such as BP, and large banks like Barclays Capital.  Around 1 year, and 6000 pages of documentation later, Ecma approved the adoption of Open XML as an international open standard.  The vote was nearly unanimous; of the 21 members, IBM’s was the sole dissenting vote. IBM again was the lone dissenter when Ecma also agreed to submit Open XML as a standard for ratification by ISO/IEC JTC1. Some governments had encouraged Ecma to seek this additional recognition to establish choice among ISO/IEC JTC1 standards, including Open Document Format (ODF).

Why do you think IBM were so against the decisions?  Well, it's thought that perhaps, IBM has commercial interests at heart, when voting against Open XML becoming an ISO standard *cough* Notes doesn't support Open XML *cough*.  If you reverse the roles, when Open Document Format, a.k.a ODF was making it's way through the 6 month ISO standard review process, did we try and get in the way?  Nope.  We want to ensure there is choice between ISO standards.  As do the other 20 companies on the Ecma technical committee.  So, just IBM then.  It's also interesting, as Steve says, "In the meantime, during the one-month period for consideration of Open XML in ISO, IBM led a global campaign urging national bodies to demand that Open XML was not even considered. They ignored the fact that the vast majority of ISO members chose not to submit comments. Nice eh?"

Again, this illustrates commercial interests at heart.  We want to ensure there is choice.  We want to ensure interoperability.  We want to ensure innovation continues at a high level.  If Open XML's application for ISO standard is blocked, what would that mean?  Well, for a start, it would create a dynamic where the first technology to the standards body, i.e. ODF in this sense, regardless of technical merit, gets to preclude other related ones from being considered.  People want choice.  Partners and Customers want choice.  We want choice.  Do you want choice?

If yes.  Please Vote.  It only takes a minute.  Thanks.

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